The Primitive Mind and Modern Man

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This book is in the field of cultural anthropology and transcultural psychology, and is intended for college courses in anthropology and psychology, and general readership. The book focuses on ...
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Status, Prestige, Recognition-the Need for Social Approval

Pp. 207-211 (5)

John Alan Cohan

Abstract

All people have the need for status, prestige and social approval, often expressed and manifested in diverse ways, such as the potlatches discussed in the preceding chapter. The ways people seek acceptance in one’s group and acquire esteem, prestige, and power in the community, take different forms-varying from merit achieved after a successful fishing expedition, to performers of a dance carried out with exceptional skill, to winning races, matches or sporting contests. The possession of certain goods will confer prestige on the owner, although the item might be relatively insignificant to outsiders. For example, in parts of Papua New Guinea the most highly prized item of prestige is a pair of rounded pig’s tusks, which are worn on ceremonial occasions only by elderly. Prestige may come from the right to certain names, or the right to perform certain rituals. Prestige may come from various honors, titles, or powers conferred by inheritance, such as the right to use certain songs and dances, or to use particular kinds of magic. Prestige may come from membership in certain clubs or, in Melanesia, the local secret men’s society. In Asian cultures social approval is associated with the concept of “face.” Losing face, by committing a socially disapproved act, is so humiliating that people can be driven to suicide.

Affiliation:

Western State Law School USA.